It’s a new, popular sport on area lakes, and it’s one that’s causing some concerns for the RCMP.
Doing boat patrols on Kalamalka Lake on the weekend, RCMP officers came across two stand-up paddle boarders in distress, and neither of them had life jackets.
“There were two individuals who were exhausted from getting blown off and getting back on their boards after the wind came up,” said RCMP Cpl. Gerry Kovacs.
“One person was basically clinging to the board in hopes of getting picked up.”
That person was rescued and taken safely to shore by the RCMP boat.
“No harm, no foul, but the bottom line here is once you get exhausted in the water – and it doesn’t take long – and you don’t have a safety device, where do you go?” said Kovacs, who is also a certified boat safety instructor.
“It’s an offence to be on the water without lifejackets aboard.”
And while boating law states that safety-approved life jackets must be on board any vessel, with the same amount of jackets available for every person on the boat, police would prefer people to wear them while cruising, not just have them ready in case of emergency.
“Wearing a life jacket is the absolute insurance for not drowing,” said Kovacs.
“What’s the point in having them in the boat if you fall over the side? A person falls over the side and hits their head on the side of the boat, down (in the water) they go. By the time everybody on the boat gets over to that side, the person has gone down six or eight feet. We advocate wearing life jackets on a vessel. We don’t operate our boats without wearing a safety device.”
RCMP reservists and regular members have been conducting patrols of Kal, Okanagan, Mabel and Mara lakes for the past two weeks solid, and Kovacs said – with no pun intended – that the boat safety message is not sinking in.
Officers have laid charges for no lifejackets or not enough lifejackets for all people on board a boat, paddle board and pedal boats; boaters have been charged for not having an operator’s competency card on board; they have charged boaters for not having a spotter while towing someone behind the vessel; and they have ticketed boaters for not having the machine’s licence visible on the back end of the boat.
This past weekend, six boats were taken off Okanagan Lake for various infractions.
There was also a case where a 14-year-old boy in an inflatable dinghy got blown out into the lake, quite a ways off-shore.
The boy did not have a life jacket on or in the dinghy.